Have you ever done something extra to show your love for the Blessed Virgin Mary? Maybe something like making an effort to pray the Rosary every day, or wearing the Miraculous Medal or a scapular?
Perhaps you were also seeking Mary’s help in some area of your spiritual life?
Saint Faustina—who had a special devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Conception and sought Mary Immaculate’s help to grow in purity of heart—would make an extra effort to prepare well for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th.
Showing Extraordinary Devotion
For the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in 1937, when she was a religious, she wrote in her Diary: “I prepared not only by means of the novena said in common by the whole community, but I also made a personal effort to salute (Mary) a thousand times each day, saying a thousand ‘Hail Marys’ for nine days in her praise” (Diary, 1413).
In fact, Sr. Faustina made this extraordinary novena at least three times in her life. “Nothing is too much when it comes to honoring the Immaculate Virgin,” she would say (Diary, 1413).
Why this particular devotion to Mary? One important reason was the saint’s earnest desire to love God with a pure heart.
Saint Faustina knew that the Immaculate Virgin is the one who always loved God with an undivided heart as the most pure of all creatures. She remained sinless—in her conception and in her journey of faith. These truths so impressed Saint Faustina that she knew she had to completely consecrate her life to the Immaculate Virgin in order to grow and become a pure religious.
Taught by Mary Immaculate
Seeking to imitate Mary’s pure, undivided heart was an important part of Saint Faustina’s spiritual life. On one occasion, the Mother of God taught Saint Faustina to follow her example by keeping the eyes of her heart fixed on the Cross even in moments of joy. She told Saint Faustina that the graces that God was granting her were not for her alone, but for other souls as well (See Diary, 561).
This mystical saint often used metaphors to describe her strong desire to love God through a life of purity. She often referred to herself, for example, as a pure lily, a pure crystal, or a chaste virgin. She would use these words as well to describe Our Lady, showing that she wanted to be pure in her love of God like Mary.
Saint Faustina also knew she had to go through Mary Immaculate because “if it were not for the Mother of God, all our efforts would be of little use” (Diary, 686). She understood that when we unite ourselves with Mary, we can do great things!
Saint Faustina’s great desire was to do God’s will and spread devotion to God’s mercy, and she knew that to fulfill her mission she had to call upon Mary’s maternal intercession and mediation. The saint even stated that she wanted to be so close to Jesus so as to be “immaculate” (Diary, 159). For her, being “immaculate” meant being available to do God’s will with a pure heart.
She relied on Mary so completely that she entrusted her desire for purity to the Mother of God: “Mary, Immaculate Virgin, take me under your special protection and guard the purity of my soul, heart, and body. You are the model and star of my life” (Diary, 874).
In seeking this purity through the intercession of Mary, Saint Faustina would meditate on Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Along with her novena of 9,000 Hail Marys for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, she would sometimes prepare in other ways as much as two months in advance of Dec. 8th.
The saint was not disappointed in all her efforts. On the contrary, Saint Faustina said that the gift of purity was “one of the greatest graces which the Most Holy Virgin Mary had obtained for me, as for many years I had been asking this grace of her” (Diary, 40).
Prepared for Mary
Saint Faustina was well prepared for her special relationship with Mary Immaculate. As a young girl in Catholic Poland—where Our Lady has been venerated in churches and wayside shrines for centuries—little Helena (the saint’s baptismal name) probably attended family rosaries and special Marian events at her local parish. Almost every morning at home, she witnessed her father beginning his day by praying The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception. How important such public and private devotion to Mary must have been in preparing the little girl to be a “Marian saint.”
Thus, when Saint Faustina received her call to the religious life, it was only natural that she would turn to the Virgin Mary. She was in Warsaw and did not know which convent to enter. So, she sought the guidance of the Blessed Mother, saying: “Mary, lead me, guide me” (Diary, 11). And like a good mother, Mary did.
On the vigil of the Feast of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels (Aug. 1, 1925), she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. This is a community with a great devotion to the Mother of God. It is the Congregation where the young woman known in the world as Helena Kowalska took the name Sr. Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
During the 13 years that she lived in this congregation, Saint Faustina experienced apparitions of Our Lady and learned from her how to be more faithful to God. Once when the saint was contemplating the humility and love of Mary Immaculate, she noted: “The more I imitate the Mother of God, the more deeply I get to know God” (Diary, 843).
Called to Purity
What can we best learn, then, from Saint Faustina’s devotion to Mary Immaculate?
Purity of heart! Our world needs this virtue as never before—with rampant pornography, high rates of premarital sex, and so many other forms of immorality now commonplace.
Saint Faustina shows us that, through the mediation and imitation of Mary Immaculate, we, too, can learn to love God with a pure heart. Let’s make her prayer to the Immaculate Virgin our own:
O Mary, Immaculate Virgin,
Pure crystal for my heart, You are my strength,
O sturdy anchor! You are the weak heart’s
shield and protection.
O Mary, you are pure,
of purity incomparable;
At once both Virgin and Mother,
You are beautiful as the sun,
without blemish, and your soul
is beyond comparison.
O Mary, my sweet Mother,
I give you my soul, my body,
and my poor heart.
Be the guardian of my life,
especially at the hour of death,
in the final strife (Diary, 161).
Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, a member of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, is the author of several Mariological articles and editor of the new book The Immaculate Conception in the Life of the Church.